WRITING ON THE ETHER: O, Brave New App, That Has Such Interactivity In’t!

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressAnne Hathaway’s Cottage on Shottery Road, near Stratford-upon-Avon


The Stars Fell Sideways 
by Cassandra Marshall

Alison may be just seventeen, but already she’s a stunt double for teen mega-actress Pomegranate. When the two go to film on location and end up shipwrecked on the isle of Atlantis, Alison will have to move a mountain, literally, to find a way home.

The Stars Fell Sideways is fun, well-paced, and at times really adorable. Alison is smart, tough, but realistic. I recommend this to teens who are interested in exploring steampunk, and anyone who’s looking for a light, funny read.” —Amazon reviewer

Find out more at thestarsfellsideways.com.


Table of Contents

  1. O, Brave New App / Raccah, Jones, Greenfield
  2. eBook Publishing Platforms: “They’re a Joke” / Bjarnason, Guillaud
  3. Google’s Digitizing: Settled at Last / Roberts, Nawotka, Jones
  4. Amazon’s vs. B&N: Now You See Them… / Owen
  5. Craft: Random Characters in Your Life / Morris
  6. Craft: Your Whole Backlist? Maybe Not. / Friedlander
  7. Craft: ‘How To Create Time’ / Fake
  8. Publishing: Institutional Memory / Dawson
  9. Conferences: Initial Descent Into Frankfurt / Cader
  10. Books: Reading on the Ether
  11. Last Gas: The Booboo of Libboo / Empson

O, Brave New App / Raccah, Jones, Greenfield

 

“User interface.” It’s not usually where you start talking about Shakespeare.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Dominique Raccah

The Ether hasn’t always rustled up the quality of mercy for Dominique Raccah, although I have great respect for her pioneering spirit.

But it’s where this story starts. This is how we typically teach Shakespeare, whether in high school or in college.

She’s writing those comments in her blog, a post headlined Shakesperience. Focusing on the experience of reading Shakespeare.

But in April, as I wrote it up on the Ether, it was a crashing disappointment when Raccah led her talented troops into Chicago to tell the RT Booklovers Convention that she was starting Discover A New Love, an interactive club-thing for readers of romance. I had the help of  Jessica Grose in her New York Magazine piece, A Million Shades of Smut, to point out that romance is estimated at some $1.4 billion in business. Classical literary fiction at $455 million.

My point and my question were one in the same: How could Raccah turn the potential of Sourcebooks to something so little needed as yet another organized forum for romance?

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressWell. All is forgiven.

She writes:

One high school English teacher said to us that “it takes about 3 weeks to get kids into Shakespeare.”

 

By the way, stage performers say the same thing — it takes time for audiences to get comfortable with the language and at some point (usually 15-20 minutes into the show) the audience “clicks over.”

I can vouch for the stage artists’ comments. Having done a lot of Shakespeare in a rotating repertory company (no, not The Kings’ Men, damn it), I can remember matinee crowds that never “clicked over” at all.

What Raccah and her team have created is renderings of some of the plays of Shakespeare in iBooks Author [Note: iBooks Author is now defunct] with interactive elements. The “Shakesperience,” as it’s called, is meant to reduce the interruptions of stopping and starting when kids look up Elizabethan words (or give up entirely and watch TV). The goal is a more immersive, involving context. Raccah cites image, audio, and interactivity as the key assets of this approach.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressMaking the works in iBooks Author saves money over trying to do something of this kind in a standalone app from scratch. It also, however, traps the works in the iBookstore, the only place Apple allows iBooks Author work to be sold. So at this point — being what Joe Wikert calls “an Android guy” — I’m not seeing these pieces in action. I’ve urged Raccah to consider creating them for the Web, as books in browsers, accessible to everybody.

(A non-Shakespearean aside: You get some observations on apps in the comments of Faber’s Stephen Page’s interview with Philip Jones and Sam Missingham this week, coming soon to The Bookseller’s Naked Book podcast — I’ll note here when it’s ready.)

https://twitter.com/sarahw/status/253156532806623232

 

Here’s how Raccah mentions the “agile” format of working she’s explored with her staff:

We’ve been building these interactive editions for a while, and the process has been incredibly iterative. We put the books into people’s hands, watched what they did (and didn’t do). We asked questions, rebuilt and tweaked some more, and then we tried it all over again.

This is what’s meant when you hear of the “agile” process in publishing. Very time-consuming, but created close to the user, thought to be worth exploring, well-covered in the last Tools of Change (TOC) conference.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressOne question I’d like to ask Raccah whenever we have a chance for a drink is how one goes about getting the rights to the kind of material she’s describing in these things. Audio clips of Dench, Jacobi, Branagh, Welles, Olivier and others — might this not be expensive to license?

And there’s the question of the name. Later in the Ether I’m going to give you a snootful of what I think about cutesy names for ventures in publishing. But I’m going to hand Raccah a pass on “Shakesperience” because she hasn’t invented it. Cutesy as it is, it’s the name for Iowa Shakespeare’s theater festival.

“What fools these…” never mind.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Philip Jones

That aside, Philip Jones gets at the essential nature of Raccah’s new Shakespearean development in his post, To enhance, or not to enhance for TheFutureBook. He writes:

Raccah is really just tapping into a classic publisher ethos: delivering content that is reader-led rather than device led. The page has always restricted what publishers could do to enhance their books; digital removes some of those restrictions, but doesn’t absolve the publisher from making the tough decisions about how best to present a piece of content.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressAs she puts it:

How do we get you to connect with the text more, and more easily? That’s a question that’s really at the heart of learning. And that focus on attention, flow, and engagement drove the interface and most of the decisions we made about what content to use and how to organize that content.

You can find the plays offered now — Hamlet, Othello, and R&J — here at iTunes. The Unmentionable Scottish Play is due in November, followed by Julius Caesar and Much Ado.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Jeremy Greenfield

Jeremy Greenfield in Sourcebooks Wants to Reinvent Shakespeare With The Shakesperience says a total 12 plays are planned.

This move may run afoul of the enhanced-ebook naysayers (they have a lot of valid naying to say), but you know what?

It’s not romance.

Amen, say we: we will all be witnesses.

Shrew, II, 1.

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eBook Publishing Platforms: “They’re a Joke” / Bjarnason, Guillaud

 

It doesn’t matter if you’re going direct through Kindle Direct Publishing, *Kobo’s Writing Life, or iTunes Connect…They are all a complete and utter joke that show a complete disregard of even the most rudimentary basics of online commerce.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressI wish Baldur Bjarnason would tell us how he really felt about things and stop beating around the bush.

Here he is, Our Favorite (expat) Icelander, hosing down TheFutureBook’s bloggery with an observation on the self-publishing-platform world we haven’t heard, but have needed.

They all seem to concentrate first and foremost on self-publishing as identity production, as a social network and role that authors inhabit and pay no heed to publishing as a business.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressAnd yet, where are the reactions to this highly regarded publishing specialist?

  • Somebody hand Baldur’s column to Mark Coker of Smashwords, will you? We’d like his take on it.
  • *Also Michael Tamblyn at Kobo. Hey, Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer, you’re about to have Tamblyn with you at Frankfurt and you have Bjarnason on your program, too. It would be interesting to here a conversation between them on it.
  • And Jon Fine, excellent Amazon publishers and authors executive. What do you think?

As is always the case with Bjarnason, he may be right.

 

The post, while comment-less so far and largely unanswered in other posts, as far as I can detect, hasn’t escaped the attention of Hubert Guillaud:

Pourtant, on parle là de deux types de données.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Hubert Guillaud

Guillaud gets it well. In Ebook publishing platforms are a joke, Bjarnason is saying that a paucity of actionable data is endemic to these publishing platforms.

The publisher needs access to the following data, both in aggregate (all of their books), on a per book basis, both worldwide and per region.

His list of “the absolute basics of what an e-commerce-oriented ebook publishing platform should provide” (I’m abbreviating his points here):

  • Referrals. An overview of all of the traffic sources. What social network actually generates leads? Which review blog generates traffic?
  • Conversion rates. For every facet of data you give to the publisher, they need to know what the conversion rate is. What blog review sells the most? What social network sells the most?
  • Upselling rate. How many people buy an ebook after sampling? How many people download a sample after coming from a specific review and go on to actually buying the book?
  • Segmentation. You should be able to segment all traffic and conversion rate overviews.
  • Search keywords. The publisher needs to know what keywords lead to the book
  • Design. Most platforms don’t allow images or markup in book descriptions or, if they do, they don’t document it.

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressNow, here is where some self-publishing authors may be even more concerned with Bjarnason’s observations. In his first of two ideas on why “there isn’t more of an outcry” about this, he suggests:

Platform vendors are largely correct in their assessment of self-publishing as being more about identity and social networks than business.

He writes that what users of these platforms do get in the way of data is:

…so self-selected, skewed, and disconnected from context that there is absolutely no way that you can discover actionable facts from it. It’s noise that will get misinterpreted as truth.

 

And he holds open a doorway to see if an entrepreneur will walk through:

I suspect that the first publishing platform to offer these ecommerce features will immediately get a massive advantage: its publishers will earn money that is out of proportion to the platform’s actual market share.

What do you think? Is Bjarnason right? And who’s likely to go through that door first and offer usable data arrays? Because, writes Bjarnason, whats on offer now is:

…about as actionable as a random number generator.

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Google’s Digitizing: Settled at Last / Roberts, Nawotka, Jones

 

Details of the settlement are confidential but a Google executive did reveal in a phone interview that the company “has very robust plans to increase analytics” with publishers. This is significant because publishers have long been frustrated by Amazon’s unwillingness to share valuable data such as customer profiles or buying habits.

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Jeff Roberts

Jeff Roberts at paidContent has one of the lead writes on the settlement of the long-running standoff between Google and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) , “a copyright lawsuit that began in 2005.”

The deal will allow publishers to use books scanned by Google as they see fit — making them available for sale or withholding them.

Roberts’ write is Google and Publishers settle book scanning lawsuit, and it dovetails nicely with writes from the international viewpoints of Publishing Perspectives’ Ed Nawotka and The Bookseller’s Philip Jones.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Ed Nawotka

In Google and AAP Settle Lawsuit, Opening Door for Contested Content, Nawotka writes:

The settlement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright-holders.  US publishers can choose to make available or choose to remove their books and journals digitized by Google for its Library Project.  Those deciding not to remove their works will have the option to receive a digital copy for their use.

He adds:

Apart from the settlement, US publishers can continue to make individual agreements with Google for use of their other digitally-scanned works.

 

And Jones provides some useful background and technical points, in AAP reaches agreement with Google:

It is the second such settlement, and resolves a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Google in October 2005 by five AAP member publishers. Unlike the original Google Book Settlement this deal does not need a court to ratify it. And unlike the first settlement agreement there is no indication that Google has agreed to pay out compensation. “Further terms of the agreement are confidential”, the two parties said.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressHe goes on to make some clarifications:

The deal means Google could now legitimately make commercially available millions of titles original scanned in without prior approval of the copyright holder. But it also ends a dead-lock over these titles, which occurred when the original settlement agreement was thrown out by a US court….

 

However, the result means those other parties that had rights over books scanned in by Google, including authors, international publishers, and so-called ‘orphan works’, will have to pursue agreements separately. Google resolved a similar dispute with French publishers earlier this year.

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Amazon’s vs. B&N: Now You See Them… / Owen

 

I learned that Barnes & Noble headquarters sent an email to its branches around the country telling them to pull the Amazon titles (which are being published and distributed in print by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt under an imprint called New Harvest).

Laura Hazard Owen

Laura Hazard Owen had reported at paidContent on Monday in Despite big fuss, Barnes & Noble carrying Amazon Publishing titles in stores that two new releases from Amazon Publishing were on shelves in some Barnes and Noble “store showrooms” in Manhattan and other parts of the country.

Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti and My Mother Was Nuts by Penny Marshall were spotted in New York stores, Owen wrote, as well as in “Chicago, Indiana, New Hampshire…Seattle, San Francisco, Louisville, Washington DC, and Boston.”

But B&N has made a noisy point of saying it won’t stock print books from the New Harvest imprint (that’s Houghton Mifflin Harcourt printing the volumes in an arrangement with Amazon).

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressB&N’s rationale for this policy — as unfriendly to its own customers as it is to Amazon — has been, as Owen quotes Jaime Carey, “based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent.”

And on Tuesday, in Barnes & Noble reportedly instructs local stores to pull Amazon titles, Owen was confirming:

This morning, a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman told me, “Our policy has not changed. We are not carrying Amazon titles.”

It’s worth making a note that if a print copy of your Amazon book makes it to B&N’s shelves? Don’t tell Owen. 🙂

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https://twitter.com/ogiovetti/status/252112966911156227

 

Craft: Random Characters in Your Life / Morris

 

The strangers in our photos are the people we aren’t meant to notice. People we tune out.

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Roz Morris and an unidentified other / Photo: Dave Morris

This week’s coveted Creepy But Intriguing Award goes to Roz Morris.

I never gave them a thought until I read about the British artist Polly Morgan, who, when she was a kid, went through family photos, cut out the walk-ons and made a gallery of them on her bedroom wall.

In Strangers in my photos – writing prompt and tip for developing a story’s world, Morris gets at a fascinating little conundrum, with the assistance of her husband Dave. (Also a bit creepy — he’s the author of the fine Frankenstein app we wrote up in the spring…the same edition of the Ether in which we bemoaned Raccah’s foray into romance. Creepier and creepier.)

I love this idea. All these anonymous people, abundant as traffic and trees, appearing accidentally in our private photos.

If you’re Rod Serling or Ray Bradbury, of course, you say they’re not accidentally there.

If you’re Alfred Hitchcock you put yourself into the shots deliberately.

In daily life, we get used to tuning things out, which is perhaps why writers have to make a special effort to flesh out a world.

 

And make of this what you will, the idea of these random people making their mysterious entrances and exits, surely, offers something to the writerly mind.

If nothing else, the characterization you’re looking for may just be hanging out among the random souls in your scrapbook.

The characters live in a void like an undecorated film set.

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressHow many of them, and what are they in search of, Luigi?

When we’re writing, we often find we have gaps in our story world. Sometimes we need a ‘purposeful nothing’ for a character to do when they go for a think, or a route they can take to the gym or work. Insignificant, low-key stuff, but if it’s not there the world of the story doesn’t feel real.

Pull out those photos. Watch for the faceless, blurred, random creatures you didn’t even notice at the time.

I’m getting close too close to Blowup, now, let’s move on, shall we?

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https://twitter.com/Ginger_Clark/status/251732912687423488

 

Craft: Your Whole Backlist? Maybe Not. / Friedlander

 

With complex books that include all three kinds of content [running text, tabular composition, graphics], we’re still a long way away from being able to easily and inexpensively re-launch the books of the past.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Joel Friedlander

While everybody seems to be rushing to unload his or her entire backlist onto the Net, Joel Friedlander has one of his typically thoughtful, down-to-Earth cautionary posts.

A colleague called today for a chat about creating an ebook…”It’s on older book that’s out of print, and there are no files available.”

The book, 13 years old, 200 pages, clean, nevertheless has standard nonfiction-book elements of text, tables and charts created with typesetting, and drawings without originals available.

This is a trifecta of difficulty. Each of these types of content needs to be handled differently.

 

Friedlander’s walk-through of the details and challenges is compelling. In Is It Worth Converting an Old Book Into an eBook? he writes:

This adds up to a cost in the range of $725 to $2,220. Compare that raw cost to an expected royalty on an older book of about $2.79 per sale ($3.99 at 70% royalty). That works out to somewhere between 260 and 789 copies you’ll need to sell to cover your costs.

 

And the conclusion, not maybe what a lot of us might have expected, is that unless you go to a PDF format and then print-on-demand, recreating this book as an ebook is a non-starter.

With complex books that include all three kinds of content, we’re still a long way away from being able to easily and inexpensively re-launch the books of the past.

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https://twitter.com/bsandusky/status/253131151366057984

 

Craft: ‘How To Create Time’ / Fake

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Caterina Fake

No, the advice is far from artificial. This is Caterina Fake:

Eliminate activities that are prestigious. Eliminate activities that require you to be around people you can’t stand. Eliminate activities that you know are a waste of time that you keep on doing out of habit. Do things that add meaning to your life. Fulfill your responsibilities. Don’t do things for people who should be doing them for themselves.

Fake’s post, How To Create Time, is on LinkedIn. I don’t know why.
Do we really need content from LinkedIn?

Fake, however, is authentic. And some of her suggestions — while not likely to “create time,” as her headline rhapsodizes — are tangible.

For example:

Don’t make appointments or schedule meetings. This is difficulty level 8 or 9, but not impossible. One way around this one is the “come by Thursday afternoon” strategy — that is, not setting a specific time to meet, but being flexible about that time the meeting starts.

https://twitter.com/alex/status/254077980178001920

 

And one my European friends know I like:

Sleep in two shifts. Researchers have discovered that in pre-industrial times, people slept in two shifts, waking in the middle of the night for some solitude, conversations with another person, wondering, or wandering. Then they’d go back to sleep for another stretch. I have been doing this lately, and have been able to get 2-3 hours of uninterrupted creative work done in the middle of the night.

There’s still great work to be done in the American night.

And while up at all hours, check out Fake’s recommendation that you “make time less precious.” Good thought.

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Publishing: Institutional Memory / Dawson

 

In 1995, I was working for a weird little company called Muze. Originally located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, well before Williamsburg became synonymous with “hipster”, Muze was founded in 1990 by Trev Huxley, grandson of Aldous, and Paul Zullo, producer of the King Biscuit Flower Hour.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Laura Dawson

This is how Laura Dawson begins a set of three short posts that can give you something rather hard to find in the industry! the industry! right now, unless you’re hanging out with Mike Shatzkin. In her first installment, A Bit Of History: Building Babel, she writes:

And suddenly there was Amazon.

This is institutional memory at work, and I find I wish we had more of it around these days.

Now, I can tell you of times when Ted Turner was discovered having a midnight snack in our cafeteria at CNN Center. That was in 1995, and CNN would soon be sold to Time Warner, what would turn out to be a fateful move in news.

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressSimilarly, Dawson is able to locate pivotal signals, one of which shows us that the quaking felt in publishing today isn’t as new as one might think.

It was sudden, almost overnight. The book world was upended…Many of us, over the next three years, went to work for Barnes & Noble.com to help B&N attempt to duplicate Amazon’s success – I can’t speak for the others on the team, but in my case it was a matter of finding work that was secure.

Dawson’s admired leadership in the data-mines makes these hard-hat posts even more valuable because she’s able to explain to newcomers how and why publishing now is embedded (in any sense you’d like to imagine) with metadata.

By 1998, it was becoming apparent that Amazon had caught the book industry – and, to an extent, even itself – flat-footed in one regard: information about books. Consumers could see it. Authors (and their mothers) complained. Publishers complained. Agents complained. The titles were truncated. The prices were wrong. The annotations – such as they were – were either far too brief to tell what the book was about, or filled with HTML-unfriendly characters.

 

Needless to say, few could have told at that time just how ingeniously and efficiently Seattle would be able to leverage the shortcomings being exposed. (Nobody knew the Levin-Case deal coming in which Time Warner would be “bought” by AOL, either.)

Publishers clearly had never expected anyone outside the book industry to look into their databases…and it showed.

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressDawson has two more installments for you:

  • Talking About Books: ONIX (“online information exchange”) in which she recounts “the first time representatives from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble were in the same room together” — and explains that “ONIX” has become “nearly synonymous with ‘book metadata'”; and
  • Some History: EDI and the Book Industry in which she gets at “the difference in EDI (‘electronic data interchange’) and ONIX.”

When you have a chance, spend some time with these personable, informative little posts.

Because thanks to Dawson and anyone else willing to enlighten us on the background of such things, we can know more about where we’ve come from than we can about where we are now.

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Conferences: Initial Descent Into Frankfurt / Cader

 

With the Frankfurt Book Fair about a week away, it’s time for our regular look at dealmaking patterns and trends in advance of the show.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressAnd as the Book Fair approaches — the largest of the annual international sit-downs — Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch has a valuable data-driven set-up analysis in place.

He uses his company’s own Publishers Marketplace (U.S.) deal reports, breaking out September for year-over-year comparisons.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
From Publishers Lunch: September 2012 US Fiction Sales, by Genre

Headlined The Deal for Frankfurt: Fiction Surges On Romance Boom, Cader’s piece reports that the September data shows:

  • A busy marketplace that is a little softer than last year’s peak (about 5 percent fewer deals overall, but the second-busiest year of the past 6)
  • A surge in fiction, driven by romance & women’s fiction (which doubled). September fiction was up 25 percent from last year, the highest total ever for this month. Similarly, domestic fiction sales are up 23 percent for the year-to-date
  • Overall nonfiction sales back to their 2009 levels after two years of increases.
  • Children’s sales drop considerably, back closer to their historical pre-Frankfurt levels after a big surge last year. And reported six-figure children’s sales were down significantly. For the year so far, children’s deal reports are up 16 percent–but six-figure sales are down by 40 percent

Publishers Launch Frankfurt

Taking conference events in chronological order, then.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressCader with Mike Shatzkin produces the Publishers Launch series of conference events, and one is scheduled for Monday, starting at 10:30a in Frankfurt.

Registration information is here for this full-day event with major presentations focusing on innovations.

https://twitter.com/jeffbercovici/status/252549074983727104

 

Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks and Shakesperience, in fact, is among those presenters, as are Marcello Vena of RCS Libri and Pottermore’s Charlie Redmayne. The full schedule of presentations and speakers is here.

In addition to Raccah, Vena, and Redmayne, some key speakers to watch for:

Patricia Arancibia, Barnes & Noble
Benedict Evans, Enders Analysis
Peter Hildick-Smith, Codex Group
Rick Joyce, Perseus
Brian Napack, Providence Equity Partners
Helmut Pesche, Bastei Entertainment (Bastei Lübbe Publishers)
Rebecca Smart, Osprey Group

This is a key event that should carry several important messages beyond the Book Fair this year.

 

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressWith Publishing Perspectives

Of particular interest is a discussion of ebook statistics from the United States, as described in a report from Publishers Launch and posted at Ed Nawotka’s Publishing Perspectives. The piece starts with a full accounting of how difficult it has been to get good statistics on ebooks in the States.

One of the great ironies of the e-book era is that while digital data streams and a market concentrated among a small number of retailers should result in an easily measured, fully transparent marketplace, we are left with the opposite, since those retailers have declined to share any data.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressAnd there’s a sharp dearth of statistical material in one area:

What neither BookStats nor StatShot capture at all are the burgeoning lists of self-published e-books and small-publisher e-books through etailer programs such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt, and third-party distributors focused on this segment like Smashwords.

Nevertheless, here are some interesting stats on ebooks’ percentages of sales at major publishers so far in 2012:

  • Digital content comprised over 23% of worldwide sales at Simon & Schuster for the first half.
  • At Penguin, e-books made up 19% of sales at the halfway mark, with e-books accounting for roughly 30% of US sales and 15 & of UK sales.
  • Harlequin said worldwide digital sales comprised 20.5% of sales for the same first two quarters of the year.
  • HarperCollins, which reports in less detail, said that digital comprised 18% of worldwide sales in the first quarter, and then put e-book-only sales at 14% of revenues in the second quarter.
  • Hachette Book Group reported that e-books comprised 27% of US revenues and 23% of UK sales in the first half of 2012 — though worldwide, digital comprised 8.4% of all Lagardere Publishing revenues.

O’Reilly Tools of Change 1

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressO’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change (TOC) is also in Frankfurt, the dynamic duo of Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer offering not one but two programs for your consideration:

On Tuesday October 9 — the eve of the October 10-14 Book Fair — the topic of TOC’s main offering is From Transition to Transformation — The New Publishing Ecosystem.

The full day of programming starts at 8:30 and includes a panel moderated by Sheila Bounford, Digital Textbooks, Online Learning and the Future of Educational Publishing.

 

Another session of note features TheFutureBook’s Sam Missingham, moderating Merchandising/Discovery: Online and Off, with GoodReads’ Otis Chandler among her panelists.

The day is tracked, with one of the most interesting lines of sessions being themed on innovators — that one includes folks familiar to Ethernauts, including Kevin Franco, Eric Hellman, Jesse Potash, Jennifer 8 Lee.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressAnother track, back because of its popularity last year, is the EDItEUR Supply Chain Track, which focuses “on the operational challenges facing the book and e-book supply chains, with a particular emphasis on supply chain efficiency and effectiveness.”

Also of note, a DRM debate with O’Reilly’s Wikert and Bill McCoy, moderated by Laura Hazard Owen.

O’Reilly Tools of Change 2

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressAnd TOC has another program for your consideration in Frankfurt, on the second day of Book Fair, Thursday the 11th, with two of my favorite specialists.

it’s called Metadata goes global: Making the most of the opportunity, and it features Bowker’s product manager for identifiers, Laura Dawson (she of the institutional memory) and industry consultant Brian O’Leary, someone Ethernauts encounter often on this gas.

I can heartily recommend this session, which runs three hours with a networking lunch to follow.

More Publishing Perspectives

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressNawotka’s service will host a free two-hour session in in Frankfurt on the morning of Saturday, October 13, an “ignite”-style round of presentations on the subject of self-publishing. You’re asked to RSVP to warmuth@book-fair.com

And don’t miss Nawotka’s and Hannah Johnson’s indispensable Survival Tips for the Frankfurt Book Fair gathered over the years, particularly if this is your first time there.

For an updated list of planned confabs, please see the Publishing Conferences page at PorterAnderson.com.

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https://twitter.com/KatMeyer/status/252105016343670784

 

Books: Reading on the Ether

 

The books you see here have been referenced recently in Writing on the Ether.

I’m bringing them together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement. And, needless to say, we lead our list weekly with our fine Writing on the Ether Sponsors, in gratitude for their support.

 


Writing on the Ether Sponsors:


 

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Last Gas: The Booboo of Libboo / Empson

Libboo today officially announcing that it has raised $1.1 in seed financing, led by Boston-based VC firm MassVentures…To do this, Libboo connects “buzzers,” or those readers who are vocal in support of great books and content with indie authors they’ll enjoy, based on their taste profiles.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressIntroduce yourself this way at your next dinner party:

“Oh, I’m a buzzer for Libboo.”

Feeling socially secure, are you?

 

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Rip Empson

Rip Empson at TechCrunch gives us Libboo Lands $1.1M From HubSpot, Avid Founders To Find The Next Digital Bestseller:

In turn for helping to expose authors’ works to new audiences via social networking, blogs and email, readers [Rip, please, those readers are “buzzers”] are rewarded with free eBooks and are given the opportunity to increase their influence within the Libboo community, becoming prime targets for future perks from authors and publishers.

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
James Scott Bell

Empson has Libboo CEOoo Chris Howard saying that his company is “on a mission to create a new avenue for books to become bestsellers.”

Well, Chris, get in line.

James Scott Bell phrased it nicely in his recent post recapping Digital Book World’s Discoverability and Marketing Conference (here are the presentations) How Will Your Book Get Discovered in The Roiling Sea of Digital Publishing?

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressPeople, as Bell wrote, are climbing up onto that raft “in numbers approaching the population of China.” And he was referring only to self-publishing authors, each and every one of whom, you can bet your boo, believes he and she is “on a mission to create a new avenue for books to become bestsellers.”

When I exchanged a few comments with someone manning Libboo’s tweetmachine, my interlocutor seemed unfamiliar with the trend these days in giving publishing startups such cutesy-corporate names as BookieJar, Jellybooks, and Bublish.

https://twitter.com/libboo/status/253577610238500864

 

I found myself assuring Kat Meis (Bublish) and Andrew Rhomberg (Jellybooks) that I do know their intentions are serious. Not that they can do anything about these names now, of course. They’re laboring under the handicap of monikers that can come across as decidedly lightweight. Does anybody who goes to Libboo.com really want to “Register as a Buzzer,” as the homepage exhorts us to do?

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
From the Libboo.com homepage.

Ironically, they could be pointing to stronger, more impressive stuff than kiddie-writing and hearts. Libboo has announced, as Empson writes:

It will be partnering with Houghton Mifflin to bring the publishing house’s debut and emerging authors to the Libboo community. The three-month pilot program will give Libboo users early access to Houghton’s content, along with promotions and perks designed to create new buzz for previously released titles and to bring exposure to debut authors.

That’s potentially serious business, legitimately interesting, worthy of attention. If you can get an audience to bond with your new Big Six authors before their books are published — depending on how large that audience is and how bond-able your authors’ books are — maybe that’s a pilot worth pursuing.

But are Libboo’s “buzzer”-participants really believers in the books? Or lovers of free stuff?

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
From the Libboo.com homepage.
agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
From the Liboo.com homepage.

 

Another reason to wish this looked like tougher stuff is heard in the smart motivations a Libboo investor, HubSpot’s Dharmesh Shah, lists for Empson:

I invested for two very simple reasons: Firstly, Libboo is trying to tackle a massively inefficient market that needs to be disrupted — helping people connect with authors and books that they’ll love. And the second reason is that I’m irritated that the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy occupies 4 of the top 10 bestseller’s list. I think Chris [Howard] and team can restore my faith in humanity and help deserving authors get discovered.

Yes. Connect readers and authors. And yes. It’s pretty bad that something better than E.L. James’ thing isn’t topping our lists. Many things are wrong with publishing. One of them is that it’s an industry mounting nothing attractive or valuable enough to beat a prurient sell like Fifty Shades.

 author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup Press
Dharmesh Shah

Shah then turns to Chris Howard, with his “buzzers” at Libboo. Howard’s job title at LinkedIn? “Prime Minister & Reality Shock Absorber.”

Here’s the real question we need to ask ourselves.

When we see startups, however well-meant, approach the public on behalf of our industry with names like BookieJar and Jellybooks and Bublish and the fabled Bookish and Afictionado and Booku and Bookshout and now Libboo — what does that say that we-in-publishing think about the readership, our customers?

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressLet’s assume they’re all great startup efforts run by fine people. As Meis explains about her company, the b in a lower-cased “bublish” is the p of “publish” upside down, and her aim is to turn things upside down for authors and readers who want to find each other. I get this — although I’m not sure readers do — and I honor it, I appreciate it, and I support Meis and these others in their work.

But the implication is more important than these outfits’ names, themselves. And that implication is that we think of our audience as dimwitted, at worst, maybe children at best. These startups’ names are terms you’d coin to trick wayward kids into eating their vegetables.

author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Cassandra Marshall, The Stars Fell Sideways, MolliePup PressLibboo’s plan, in particular, calls for members who are assumed to need free stuff in order to advocate readership among their peers. Do we think, then, that we can’t find readers interested enough in books to trade and spread info about them without free baseball caps?

When did we decide that readers are soft-headed sheep who come only to the cloying Call of the Cute and the promise of something for nothing?

If you think it takes corporate cuteness to bring a reader to a good book, you’re starting up the wrong tree.

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The Stars Fell Sideways 
by Cassandra Marshall

Alison may be just seventeen, but already she’s a stunt double for teen mega-actress Pomegranate. When the two go to film on location and end up shipwrecked on the isle of Atlantis, Alison will have to move a mountain, literally, to find a way home.

The Stars Fell Sideways is fun, well-paced, and at times really adorable. Alison is smart, tough, but realistic. I recommend this to teens who are interested in exploring steampunk, and anyone who’s looking for a light, funny read.” —Amazon reviewer

Find out more at thestarsfellsideways.com.


Main image: iStockphoto / kodachrome25

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